The Steelers re-signed tackle Max Starks to a one-year deal on Tuesday, hoping his surgically repaired knee is healed and his leadership can help one of the NFL's youngest lines provide better protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Terms were not disclosed, but Starks gives the Steelers insurance if rookie Mike Adams isn't quite ready play with the first team.
The 30-year-old Starks has started 79 games with Pittsburgh since being selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. His time appeared to be over after a neck injury cut short his 2010 season. He was a salary-cap casualty last summer but returned in October after a series of injuries decimated the line.
Starks started 11 games in 2011 before tearing the ACL in his knee during Pittsburgh's loss to the Broncos in the wild card round in January. He underwent surgery shortly thereafter but posted on his Twitter account Tuesday that he was on his way to being ''game ready'' and later added he would ''be seeing you in Latrobe'' when the Steelers open training camp next week.
The offensive line has been a focus during the offseason after Roethlisberger spent much of 2011 battling injuries. The team drafted Stanford guard David DeCastro in the first round then took Adams in the next round.
The duo will eventually join right tackle Marcus Gilbert, 24, and center Maurkice Pouncey, who turns 23 next week, as the core of a line the Steelers hope to have in place for years to come.
If Adams isn't quite ready, however, Starks will fill in on the left side next to former tackle Willie Colon, who is switching to guard.
The massive 6-foot-8, 345-pound Starks has been a staple in the locker room and one of Roethlisberger's best friends since joining the team eight years ago. He came in from ''off the couch'' last fall and stepped in right away. He played four days after being signed then started the following week.